I recently received an email from a very successful coffee service operator saying he did not plan to attend the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) coffee show in Las Vegas Oct. 20 to 22. He said he was not planning to go because of the $199 fee.I was shocked. I have known this individual for years, and he has been successful largely because of his devotion to learning his trade inside and out. He has been very successful with e-commerce, to which he devoted hundreds if not thousands of hours of personal study.If anyone knows the importance of education, I believed he did. So I asked him if he didnt think $199 wasnt a fair price for an annual educational conference.His responded that over the years, trade shows have been less rewarding since they offer fewer buying incentives.What struck me was that he did not realize the full educational value of this event. Coffee service today has become incredibly specialized. The NAMA coffee show is the only educational event designed for coffee service operators. Coffee service has become more competitive than ever, and the need for coffee specific education is greater than ever.I couldnt help but take this mans position as a personal insult, since both Automatic Merchandiser and VendingMarketWatch have reported on the NAMA coffee shows in detail in the two years they have been held. This operator reads us regularly, so it mystifies me that he sees so little value in the material presented.No operator should believe he knows more than what the presenters have to offer at the shows. No operator should believe he knows more than all of the attendees who are on hand at the networking sessions.The operator noted that he continues to reinvent what he does five days a week, and knowing him as I do, I believe him.I simply cant for the life of me understand why he wont spend a couple of days at a conference where he will have a chance to meet with the most progressive coffee service professionals in the country and learn many of the finer points of his trade.Scores of veteran operators have told me over the years they never fail to gain at least one useful idea at trade events, which in their minds justifies the cost of attendance.Operators are independent by nature, so its no surprise that some choose to go it alone. Strong individualism is one of the things I like the most about our industry.But when it comes to education opportunities, those who fail to take advantage of it are making a big mistake. In todays coffee business, there is no such thing as being overqualified.